Even if your cat is indoors and never goes outside, it's important to keep their vaccinations up to date. Our vets at Franklin understand that some owners may be tempted to skip vaccinations, but there are still good reasons to ensure your cat gets vaccinated.
Why are vaccines for cats important?
Many cats in the US suffer from serious feline-specific diseases each year. To keep your cat from getting sick with a preventable disease, it's crucial to start vaccinating your cat as a kitten and to continue getting "booster shots" regularly throughout their life.
After the initial vaccination wears off, booster shots help maintain your cat's immunity to feline diseases. Your vet will provide you with a schedule for booster shots and advise you on when to bring your cat in.
Why should I vaccinate my indoor cat?
Some states require all cats to have certain vaccinations, even if they're indoor cats. For example, cats over 6 months old may need vaccination against rabies. After getting vaccinated, your vet will give you a certificate.
Indoor cats can still get sick if they sneak out or visit places where other cats have been, like groomers or boarding facilities. Vaccinations can protect your indoor cat's health.
There are two types of vaccines for cats: core and lifestyle. Our vets recommend core vaccinations for all cats, whether indoors or outdoors, to protect them from highly contagious diseases.
What are the core vaccines for cat shots?
Core vaccinations should be given to all cats, as they are essential for protecting them against the following common but serious feline conditions:
- Rabies - rabies kills many mammals (including humans) every year. These vaccinations are required by law for cats in most states.
- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia (FVRCP) - Typically known as the “distemper” shot, this combination vaccine protects against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.
- Feline herpesvirus type I (FHV, FHV-1) - This highly contagious, ubiquitous virus is one major cause of upper respiratory infections. Spread through sharing of litter trays or food bowls, inhalation of sneeze droplets, or direct contact, the virus can infect cats for life. Some will continue to shed the virus, and persistent FHV infection can lead to eye problems.
What are lifestyle (non-core) cat vaccines?
Non-core vaccinations are appropriate for some cats depending on their lifestyle. Your vet is in the best position to recommend which non-core vaccines your cat should have. Lifestyle vaccines protection against:
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia (Felv) - These vaccines protect against viral infections that are transmitted via close contact. They are only usually recommended for cats that spend time outdoors.
- Bordetella - This bacteria causes upper respiratory infections that are highly contagious. Your vet may recommend this vaccine if you take your cat to a groomer or boarding kennel.
- Chlamydophila felis - Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes severe conjunctivitis. The vaccination for the infection is often included in the distemper combination vaccine.
When should my kitten get their shots?
Kittens should get shots when they are around six to eight weeks old. They should continue getting shots every three to four weeks until they are about 16 weeks old.
Kitten Vaccination Schedule
First visit (6 to 8 weeks)
- Review nutrition and grooming
- Blood test for feline leukemia
- Fecal exam for parasites
- Vaccinations for chlamydia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis and panleukopenia
Second visit (12 weeks)
- Examination and external check for parasites
- First feline leukemia vaccine
- Second vaccinations for calicivirus rhinotracheitis, and panleukopenia
- First feline leukemia vaccine
Third visit (follow veterinarian’s advice)
- Rabies vaccine
- Second feline leukemia vaccine
When should my cat get 'booster' shots?
Adult cats need booster shots either every year or every three years, depending on the vaccine. Your vet will let you know when it's time to bring your cat in for a booster shot.
Is there an indoor cat vaccination schedule?
The recommended vaccine schedule is the same for all cats. The difference between vaccinating indoor and outdoor cats is which vaccines are best for your cat's lifestyle. Your vet will tell you which vaccines your cat needs.
Is my cat protected as soon as they get their shots?
Until they have received all rounds of their vaccinations (when they are about 12 to 16 weeks old), your kitty will not be fully vaccinated. After all of their initial vaccinations have been completed, your kitten will be protected against the diseases or conditions covered by the vaccines.
If you plan to let your kitten outdoors before they have been fully vaccinated against all the diseases listed above, we recommend keeping them restricted to low-risk areas such as your own backyard.
Will my cat experience side effects after getting vaccinated?
The vast majority of cats will not experience any side effects from getting their shots. If reactions do occur, they are usually minor and short in duration. That said, in rare cases more serious reactions can occur, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Redness or swelling around the injection site
- Severe lethargy
Call your vet immediately if you suspect your kitty may be experiencing side effects from a cat vaccine! Your vet can help you determine any special care or follow-up that may be required.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.